27 August 2002, Volume 3, Number 29
FOREIGN POLICYU.S. CONGRESSMEN CONCERNED ABOUT MOSCOW'S TECHNOLOGY TRANSFERS TO IRAN, IRAQ... A U.S. Congressional delegation visiting Moscow said on 22 August that U.S. lawmakers are deeply concerned by Russia's ongoing cooperation with Iran and Iraq, Western and Russian news agencies reported. The 11-member delegation is headed by Representative Henry Hyde (Republican, Illinois), chairman of the House International Relations Committee. Hyde said that assisting Iran to acquire weapons of mass destruction would have extremely negative consequences for the security of the United States, Russia, and the entire international community. The delegation expressed particular concern about Russian assistance in the construction of a nuclear-power plant in Bushehr, Iran, which some U.S. experts believe could help Tehran develop nuclear weapons. Hyde also said that he hopes Moscow will comply with international sanctions against Iraq, despite recent reports about a long-term cooperation agreement between the two countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 2002). The delegation plans to discuss the situations in Afghanistan and Georgia with First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov.
...AS TRUBNIKOV COUNTERS U.S. WORRY... Trubnikov said that Russia opposes possible U.S. plans to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and said that any such action could have a negative effect "on the unity of the antiterrorism coalition," ITAR-TASS reported on 23 August. Trubnikov rejected Hyde's concern about Russia's technology transfers to Iran and Iraq. He reiterated the position that Moscow's relations with Baghdad do not violate international sanctions and said that Iraq supports Russia's efforts "to eradicate terrorism and armed separatism in the North Caucasus region and helps us at international, pan-Arab, and Islamic forums."
...AS MOSCOW REAFFIRMS ITS DESIRE TO COOPERATE WITH IRAQ... The Russian government is ready to begin implementing a long-term partnership program with Baghdad, an unidentified "high-ranking" source told RIA-Novosti on 26 August. The source also said the document "has practically been agreed to" and is being finalized by the government. The total volume of the trade contracts in energy, transportation, telecommunications, agriculture, and metallurgy is about $40 billion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 2002). The program has been under discussion for two years and is not linked to the present tension surrounding Iraq and a possible U.S. military intervention there, the source said. According to the program, Russia will build pipelines and factories in Iraq and will explore new oil fields.
...AND ZHIRINOVSKII OFFERS RUSSIAN TROOPS FOR IRAQ. Addressing a Russian-speaking audience in New York, Deputy Speaker of the State Duma and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Vladimir Zhirinovskii said that Russia is ready to demonstrate its "good feelings" toward the United States by deploying military troops to Iraq, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 22 August. He said that the Americans and Israelis would not have to worry about Saddam if Moscow was watching him.
RUSSIAN, CHINESE PREMIERS TAKE CONTROL OF JOINT PROJECTS... Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, continuing his visit to China, said after talks with his Chinese counterpart Zhu Rongji in Shanghai on 21 August that the two men agreed to take the largest joint projects -- including the construction of oil and gas pipelines -- under their personal control, RTR and other Russian news agencies reported. According to Zhu, after the completion of the strategic oil pipeline from Siberia to China, China will import from 20 million to 30 million tons of Russian oil annually, constituting over half the trade volume between the two countries. Kasyanov said that it is important for Russia to persuade China to support its swift accession to the World Trade Organization, or WTO.
...AS BOTH COUNTRIES PLAN JOINT VENTURES IN RUSSIA AND THE DEVELOPING WORLD... Aleksandr Livshits, deputy head of RusAl and a member of the Russian delegation to trade talks with China headed by Prime Minister Kasyanov, said in Beijing that the two countries are considering the joint exploration of the world's biggest bauxite-ore deposit in Guinea, RTR and other Russian news agencies reported. Livshits said this project would cost $1 billion. He added that his company has proposed that China help build a joint aluminum plant in Irkutsk Oblast that could produce up to 500,000 tons a year. Another member of the delegation, Yukos Vice President Aleksandr Temerko, reported that his company and its Chinese partners have made substantial progress on the "Russia-China" oil-pipeline project and have prepared an investment plan for it, polit.ru reported on 22 August. Temerko said that Russia has agreed to increase the supply of oil to China not only via pipelines but also by rail.
...AS CHINA RELUCTANT TO BE TIED TO RUSSIAN ENERGY SUPPLIES... Despite a number of agreements signed by Kasyanov during his recent trip to China (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21, 22, and 23 August 2002), the Chinese government is reluctant to make specific commitments to import Russian natural gas from Irkutsk Oblast, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 23 August. This project could potentially bring Russia up to $10 billion. Moreover, the Kremlin views it as a chance to win concessions from Beijing in other foreign-trade sectors. However, the daily added, the Kremlin's efforts have not yet paid off, although Gazprom did get a 15 percent share in the construction of a trans-China gas pipeline as a sort of consolation prize.
...AS SENATOR URGES FRANK CONSIDERATION OF BILATERAL PROBLEMS. Federation Council member Aleksandr Nazarov, chairman of the council's Committee for the North and Numerically Small Peoples, called for "the constructive discussion of the problems existing" between China and Russia, RosBalt reported on 22 August. Nazarov considers migration to be the main problem in Sino-Russian relations. He said that Chinese attempts to withhold support for Russia's WTO membership in order to compel Russia to lift migration limits are "direct pressure that we cannot allow." He added that the government must "use all instruments at its disposal" to protect the economic future of the Russian Far East.
PRESIDENT MEETS WITH NORTH KOREAN LEADER... President Vladimir Putin on 23 August met with visiting North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il for 90 minutes in a suburb of Vladivostok, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Putin noted that bilateral ties have increased since the leaders met last year in Moscow, ntvru.com reported. Putin added that he intends "to shore up" efforts to connect the trans-Korean and Trans-Siberian railroads. The president also said that Russia is doing all it can to facilitate improved contacts between North and South Korea. For his part, Kim said that he is "1,000 percent satisfied" with his four-day tour of the region. Before his meeting with Putin, Kim toured the port, a local shopping center, and a bakery.
...AND SAYS IF RUSSIA DOESN'T BUILD TRANSPORT CORRIDOR, CHINA WILL. Speaking to journalists after his 23 August meeting in Vladivostok with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, President Putin said the two leaders had discussed in detail the projected merging of the North and South Korean rail networks and connecting them with Russia's Trans-Siberian Railroad, Russian news agencies reported on 24 August. The transcontinental route that would emerge as a result would stimulate the Russian Far East's economy, Putin noted. Russia is extremely interested in having the main transit route from the Asia-Pacific region to Europe run through its territory, which is why it intends to bankroll to construction works. Putin added that if Russia does not move ahead with the project immediately, China will do so instead. Meanwhile, according to Prime Minister Kasyanov, the project could ultimately bring Russia $3 billion per year in new revenues. The country currently takes in about $1 billion a year on transit-transportation fees, gazeta.ru reported on 23 August.
PUTIN SAYS THAT FAR EAST'S GEOPOLITICAL SIGNIFICANCE HAS GROWN... Speaking to scientists after visiting the Far East Marine Wildlife Reserve, President Putin said that globalization has substantially increased the geopolitical importance of the Far East for Russia, Russian news agencies reported on 26 August. "No other part of Russia has the same conditions as we have here," Putin was quoted as saying. "Here there are year-round seaports, and the province is situated close to the rapidly developing and economically active Asia-Pacific region." Putin called for measures to stimulate the economy of the region, but added that this activity must be balanced with a stronger commitment to protect the environment.
...AND THAT GOVERNMENT IS PREPARING NEW ENVIRONMENTAL-PROTECTION LAW. The Kremlin is drafting a new federal law on protecting the environment, President Putin told journalists in Vladivostok on 27 August, according to Russian news agencies. The new law "will expound a system of measures and responsibilities for causing harm to the environment," Putin was quoted by RosBalt as saying. He noted that environmental protection in the Far East must be carried out in cooperation with neighboring countries, including China, Mongolia, Japan, and North and South Korea. "The government will assist in this through the Interior Ministry and other agencies," Putin said. Putin said that ecological issues connected with exploiting the Sakhalin oil reserves must be addressed.
NATIONAL SECURITYEXPLOSION ROCKS MOSCOW APARTMENT BUILDING... Eight people were killed when part of a five-story apartment building in northern Moscow was destroyed by an explosion on 20 August, Russian and Western news agencies reported. A ninth victim later died in the hospital. Seventeen people were given outpatient treatment, while six others remain hospitalized, ITAR-TASS reported. According to strana.ru, more than 350 rescue workers were sent to the scene. President Putin ordered Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu to oversee the rescue operation personally.
...AS CAUSE UNDER INVESTIGATION... Despite official statements from the Federal Security Service (FSB) and other agencies that a natural-gas leak and not a terrorist act was to blame for the explosion, President Putin ordered law-enforcement officials to conduct an investigation. AP reported that FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev visited the site. According to dpa, firefighters were puzzled as to why no fire had broken out after the explosion and survivors claimed that they smelled explosives rather than gas after the incident. In 1999, the country was rocked by a series of apartment-building explosions that are still being investigated. On 10 August, police located and removed a car bomb in Novosibirsk, and the FSB is now searching for the perpetrator (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 2002).
...WHILE TERRORISM IS EXCLUDED... Deputy Interior Minister Aleksandr Chekalin said on 22 August that his agency has excluded the possibility that a terrorist act caused the Moscow apartment-building explosion, ORT reported. Chekalin said that investigators are certain the tragedy was caused by a natural-gas leak, although some witnesses told RFE/RL's Russian Service that they did not smell gas at the site, but rather "something like gunpowder." Meanwhile, on 22 August, eight people were killed in the Siberian city of Kogalym when an explosion ripped through a workers' hostel, Western and Russian news agencies reported. Officials blame the incident, in which five of the victims were children, on a natural-gas leak, according to dpa.
...AND MOSCOW MAY RAZE BUILDING. The apartment building will most likely be demolished, Russian news agencies reported on 27 August. Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's press secretary, Sergei Tsoi, said that the building will be torn down and a new, larger one built in its place. Tsoi added, however, that the order to tear down the building has not yet been signed. Authorities maintain that the explosion was caused by a natural-gas leak. Following the 1999 apartment-building blasts in Moscow and other Russian cities, the authorities were widely criticized for quickly razing the damaged buildings and possibly destroying evidence.
BLAME GAME BEGINS IN CONNECTION WITH DOWNED HELICOPTER... Defense Minister Ivanov said in Rostov-na-Donu that as a result of a military helicopter crash in Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 2002), 115 of the 147 people on board were killed, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 21 August. Three others later died in the hospital. Among the dead are 21 officers, including four lieutenant colonels; three women; and the child of one of the servicemen. Ivanov also promised a "very efficient investigation" and noted that it will be facilitated by the fact that the helicopter's crew survived. He announced that he has suspended Colonel General Vitalii Pavlov, commander of the army aviation wing in Chechnya, for the duration of the investigation.
...AS PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION SEES IT AS A 'TERRORIST ATTACK'... Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov stated that the main theory being investigated is that the tragedy was the result of "a terrorist attack," RTR reported on 20 August. Ustinov's deputy, Sergei Fridinskii, confirmed reports that a launcher for a Strela rocket had been found near the crash site. President Putin declared 22 August a national day of mourning for those killed in Russia's worst post-Soviet military air disaster, ORT reported on 20 August. The mourning overshadowed the official celebration of Flag Day, which marks the adoption of the tricolor flag and the defeat of an antidemocratic coup attempt on 22 August 1991. This year's Flag Day ceremony was shortened and the flag was only raised to half-mast.
...WHILE CHECHEN ADMINISTRATION EXPRESSES DOUBT... Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov on 20 August expressed his condolences to the families of those killed in the helicopter disaster, Interfax reported. At the same time, he cast doubt on the veracity of the Chechen militants' claims of responsibility for downing the helicopter (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 2002). Chechen Police Chief Said-Selim Pashaev likewise said he thinks it improbable that any Chechen fighter could have approached close enough to Khankala to fire a missile and bring down the helicopter, Interfax reported. Pashaev pointed out that the area surrounding the Khankala base is closely guarded, and that military helicopters regularly patrol it at low altitudes and would have detected any interloper.
...AS SAFETY AND SECURITY BREACHES ARE UNCOVERED. Investigators looking into the crash continue to believe the helicopter was shot down from the ground, Russian media reported on 22 August. However, there is no doubt that the high death toll resulted from the violation of safety and security regulations, polit.ru and other news agencies reported. The Mi-26 -- the world's largest military helicopter -- has fixed seating for 80 troops plus crew and is designed to carry a 20-ton payload. In 1998, the Defense Ministry issued orders that the helicopter not be used to carry personnel beyond its seating capacity of 80.
MILITARYPUTIN SAYS HE'S READY TO REDUCE TERM OF MILITARY SERVICE... Talking with officers and sailors on board the antisubmarine ship "Marshal Shaposhnikov" on 26 August, President Putin stated that Russia's leadership is planning to reduce the length of compulsory military service, RIA-Novosti, Interfax, and other news agencies reported on 26 August. He added, however, that this measure probably will not affect the navy. Putin said that, in future, the Russian Army will have more professional servicemen than draftees, although he conceded that financial difficulties will make it impossible to switch to a 100 percent volunteer army. He said the recent experiment with transforming the 76th Paratroop Division to professional status (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2002) has shown that merely raising salaries is not sufficient, since most professional soldiers have families and cannot live in army barracks.
...PUTIN PLEDGES TO RESTORE NAVAL STRENGTH... During his speech aboard the "Marshal Shaposhnikov," Putin said Russia's Pacific Fleet is the guarantor of Russian interests not only regionally, but across the Pacific Ocean, Russian news agencies reported. Putin said that, although the navy had been neglected for a long time, the government has now adopted a new program for rearming it and bringing it to a new technological level, ITAR-TASS reported. He also pledged that the Pacific Fleet will soon hold a major exercise, comparable to the one held on the Caspian Sea earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 9 August 2002). Finally, he added that the Nautical Collegium was recently created to oversee problems relating to the navy and merchant shipping.
...AS PACIFIC FLEET WELCOMES NAVY'S PATRON SAINT. A special aircraft arrived in Vladivostok on 27 August carrying the relics of the 18th-century admiral, Fedor Ushakov, who was canonized by the Orthodox Church last year, RTR reported. The relics were accompanied by the archbishop of Saransk and Mordova, who said that some of the saint's relics had already been given to the Baltic and Black Sea fleets. Ushakov (1744-1817) was an innovative naval commander who won major battles against the Turks and Napoleonic France. He is widely considered never to have lost a battle.
SECURITY SERVICESFSB ARRESTS MAN WHO THREATENED TO BLOW UP ITS HEADQUARTERS. The antiterrorism squad of the Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested Vladimir Shirokov on 22 August in Moscow for allegedly threatening to detonate a car bomb in front of the FSB's Lubyanka headquarters, Russian and Western news agencies reported. Shirokov, who was armed with something that appeared to be a Kalashnikov assault rifle, allegedly demanded to be allowed to meet with President Putin in order to tell the president "how to save Russia." FSB officials claimed that Shirokov was drunk and said that his small truck was filled with bags of cement rather than explosives. Operatives were able to distract and disarm him, and no one was injured in the incident. He is being held in the FSB prison at Lefortovo and an investigation into charges of terrorism has been launched.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENTNUCLEAR SCIENTIST VANISHES. A prominent physicist who specializes in the reprocessing of nuclear fuel has disappeared from his home in Krasnoyarsk, ITAR-TASS and AP reported on 23 August. Sergei Bakhvalov, head of the department of physical chemistry of Krasnoyarsk State University and the Kristall Research Center, received a telephone call at home on 18 August, after which he left his apartment and did not return. Bakhvalov won a state tender in 2001 for a plan to reuse the reactors aboard the "Kursk" nuclear submarine. According to ITAR-TASS, Bakhvalov's colleagues do not believe his disappearance is related to his research.
LIBERAL RUSSIA LEADER GUNNED DOWN... State Duma Deputy Vladimir Golovlev (independent) was murdered in broad daylight near his Moscow home on 21 August, Russian and Western news agencies reported. RIA-Novosti reported that he was shot twice in the head. Golovlev, who was elected to the Duma as a member of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), left that party in early 2001 and later became a co-chairman of Liberal Russia. "The murder of one of the five co-chairmen of Liberal Russia is undoubtedly of a political nature," fellow Liberal Russia co-Chairman and Duma Deputy Sergei Yushenkov was quoted as saying by regions.ru. According to NTV, unknown assailants attacked Golovlev about three months ago, but the attack was foiled by Golovlev's dog. Last fall, the Prosecutor-General's Office asked the Duma to lift Golovlev's immunity from prosecution in order to investigate his activities when he headed the Chelyabinsk Oblast State Property Committee in 1991-92 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 December 2001). The Duma partially granted the request by authorizing prosecutors to proceed with an investigation. According to dpa, Golovlev is the seventh member of the Duma to be murdered since 1994.
...AS HE WAS ALLEGEDLY WORTH $100 MILLION. Former State Duma Deputy Golovlev was worth an estimated $100 million when he died, Russian news agencies reported on 27 August, citing Chelyabinsk Oblast Prosecutor Anatolii Bragin. According to izvestia.ru, prosecutors investigating the matter have allegedly uncovered bank accounts in Golovlev's name in Cyprus, the Virgin Islands, Germany, Great Britain, and the United States. Prosecutors are investigating accusations that the money was acquired illegally during the early 1990s when Golovlev headed the Chelyabinsk Oblast State Property Committee, which privatized a number of major enterprises. Bragin also said that he is certain that Golovlev died as a result of a contract hit, RIA-Novosti reported. In an interview with strana.ru on 19 November 2001, Golovlev said, "Most likely, all of this [investigation] really will end with investigators going after a slew of people who are well-known in Moscow, and not just people from Chelyabinsk."
INVESTIGATION OF PETERSBURG DEPUTY GOVERNOR CLOSED. A criminal investigation of St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Aleksandr Potekhin has been closed, RosBalt reported on 26 August. According to Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Zubrin, some of the charges against Potekhin were dropped because they fell under the terms of Duma amnesties. Others were dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired. Potekhin was being investigated for allegedly engaging in commercial activity while serving as a public official. Potekhin was one of several close associates of St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev -- including former Deputy Governor Valerii Malyshev and Deputy Governor Anatolii Kagan -- to be investigated by federal prosecutors on a range of corruption charges. "Society must become accustomed to respecting the presumption of innocence," Yakovlev's spokesman, Aleksandr Afanasiev, was quoted as saying. "The Kagan case will turn out just the same, as did the Malyshev case."
LOCAL OFFICIALS TARGETS OF APPARENT CONTRACT KILLINGS... Two local officials were assassinated in apparent contract hits on 26 August, Russian news agencies reported. In Pskov, Leonid Volkov, who was elected head of the Loknyan Raion in April, was shot twice in the head as he left his home to go to work, dni.ru reported. Police are investigating the murder. Meanwhile, in Novosibirsk, City Council Deputy Aleksei Karpunin was shot several times with a Kalashnikov assault rifle outside his dacha by an unknown assailant. According to dni.ru, police believe the murder was most likely connected to Karpunin's commercial activity as co-owner of the local Sinad casino and several other businesses. As a member of the Novosibirsk City Council, Karpunin served on the Committee for Municipal Property and Economic Development and the Committee on Finance, the Budget, and Tax Policy.
...AS IS ST. PETERSBURG DOCTOR. Aleksandr Voitovich, deputy director of the Trauma and Orthopedics Institute, was killed on 23 August, fontanka.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. Voitovich was apparently shot in the mouth near his home as he was leaving for work. Police are investigating the incident.
POLITICAL ECONOMYPREMIER CALLS ON CHINESE BUSINESS TO BOOST QUALITY... Speaking to representatives of the Chinese business community in Shanghai on 21 August, Prime Minister Kasyanov urged Chinese producers to improve the quality of goods exported to Russia, RIA-Novosti reported. Kasyanov complained that a lot of inexpensive commodities brought into Russia by shuttle traders are of poor quality and fully bear out the Chinese saying, "The thing is as good as its price." Kasyanov also urged China to settle currency-exchange issues that arise in the course of intensive cross-border trade. He announced that the two sides have reached an agreement, according to which payments in the border regions will be carried out only in national currencies, eliminating barter arrangements. If this system proves effective, its scale will be expanded.
...AND CALLS FOR ADHERENCE TO IMMIGRATION, CUSTOMS REGULATIONS. In an interview with the Chinese media and RIA-Novosti on 20 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 2002), Kasyanov warned China "to strictly observe Russian immigration legislation." He also said that he is concerned that Chinese goods brought across the border by shuttle traders are violating the newly adopted Customs Code. Russia does not want to ban this trade, but is seeking to impose order on "unorganized" trade, Kasyanov said.
MINISTER COMMENTS ON WTO OPPONENTS. Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref has said that the Russian economy has developed to a point at which many large enterprises are afraid of foreign competitors, "Vedomosti" reported on 21 August. Gref said these companies realize that it is easier for two or three domestic firms to reach an understanding on dividing market shares than it would be if outside players were to appear. He added that the business community is divided on WTO accession. One part favors the move because it wants stable rules, taxes, and legal procedures, while another part opposes membership because it thrives on instability.
MINISTRY OPPOSES IMPORT OF LOW-LEVEL RADIOACTIVE WASTE. The Atomic Energy Ministry does not support a proposed plan to store low-level radioactive waste at a facility on the disputed Kurile Islands, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 August, citing the ministry's press service. "The ministry has not conducted nor is conducting any negotiations with foreign partners about bringing low-level waste into Russia from abroad.... The Russian Atomic Energy Ministry supports the current legislative ban on bringing such waste into Russia," the ministry's press release said. The news agency reported that an unnamed ministry source said the press release refers to a proposed plan to store such waste from Taiwan and Japan on Simushir Island in the Kuriles. The Soviet Union occupied the islands after World War II, an act that Japan has never recognized.
TRENDS AND IDEASNATIONALIST CALLS FOR EXCHANGE OF LANGUAGES... Deputy Duma Speaker and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Zhirinovskii, on a private visit to the United States, said in New York on 20 August that he favors visa-free travel between the United States and Russia, Russian news agencies reported. Zhirinovskii also suggested that the United States adopt Russian as its second official language and that Russia do the same for English. He noted that Kyrgyzstan has already adopted Russian as its second official language. Zhirinovskii said that he intends to send his proposal to U.S. President George W. Bush.
...ENDORSES LONGER TERM FOR PUTIN. In an interview with Novosti On-Lain radio on 20 August, Zhirinovskii endorsed a recent proposal by the legislature of Magadan Oblast to extend President Putin's term of office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 August 2002). Zhirinovskii claimed that his Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) has supported a longer presidential term for "five or six years" and urged the Duma to schedule a national referendum on the question for 14 December, at the same time as Duma elections. He also indicated that he supports changing the constitutional provision that limits a president to two terms. Finally, Zhirinovskii said that the "non-Russian" word "president" should be removed from the constitution and replaced with the "fine Russian political term" supreme leader of Russia (verkhovnyi pravitel Rossii).
EES HEAD COMMENTS ON POLITICAL SITUATION AND HIS PLANS. Anatolii Chubais, head of Unified Energy Systems (EES) and a leader of the SPS, will not run for president in 2004 or 2008, "Argumenty i fakty" reported on 21 August. In an interview, Chubais said that he also will not offer himself as campaign manager for President Vladimir Putin, who already has "a strong administration." "One can dislike [presidential Chief of Staff Aleksandr] Voloshin, but it is a fact that he has created a very sound political structure," Chubais said. He also said that in just two years, Putin has managed to completely reverse the course of relations with NATO and to prepare the country for accession to the WTO. Asked who among Russia's liberal politicians would make the strongest candidates for president, Chubais named fellow SPS leader Boris Nemtsov and Yabloko head Grigorii Yavlinskii. He said liberals should unite behind whichever candidate demonstrates the broadest public support.